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The many joys and benefits of laughing

Senior Wellness | Oct 24, 2016

Everyone laughs.

Whether you're watching a funny show on television or telling old stories with friends and family, you're bound to laugh a few times throughout the day. But did you know there are actually health benefits to laughing?

In fact, studies have shown laughing and humor can influence an individual's mental wellness. And as you age, laughing is still an important aspect of life.

Why is laughing so healthy?

A 2004 study from Northwestern University revealed the correlations between your health and laughing. Researchers concluded that individuals who have a sense of humor and laugh show fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, and generally experienced an enhanced quality of life.

Laughing actually causes many different reactions throughout your body. According to SeniorHomes.com, your entire body relaxes once you start to react to something funny. Stress also decreases because cortisol levels, also known as the stress hormone, decline.

"Individuals who have a sense of humor and laugh show fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety."

At the same time, endorphins are released. These hormones are found in your brain and nervous system and are what cause you to feel happy and good about yourself. It's also not unusual for your heart rate to moderately increase. These positive physiological effects have been linked to lowering your risk for stroke and heart attack.

You may not realize it in the moment, but having a good laugh can take your mind off issues causing stress. While you can't escape from those issues entirely, you can for just a few moments. It is these laughs that can lead you to holding a positive outlook on life. By remaining optimistic, you're better able to prevail through even the toughest of times, such as illness, financial uncertainty, or the loss of a loved one.

Long-term effects

Laughter helps in both short- and long-term situations. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter helps improve your immune system because your body releases chemicals that can help potentially fight illnesses.

And even if you aren't sick or under a lot of stress, you can still benefit from laughing and increase its healthy effects over time. For example, being able to laugh at yourself over a funny situation or bad joke can help you use your personal life for humor. Tell these jokes with others and there's a good chance everyone else will share numerous chuckles.

One topic you may find worthy of making jokes about is your age. There's no escaping the process of turning older, so why not make fun of it every now and then? Developing a sense of light-hearted humor about your age, whether you're nearing retirement or have been retired for 15 years, can help you overcome any anxiety related to getting older.

Make sure to laugh daily

Thanks to the many forms of entertainment, it's easier than ever to laugh on a daily basis. You can start your morning off with a joke of the day sent to your mobile phone or tablet device. Newspapers also come with small comic strips.

"It's easier than ever to laugh on a daily basis."

Television shows and movies are two visual mediums in which you can find plenty more moments to laugh. Whether it's the latest movie releases or situational comedies, you're bound to have some chuckles. Watch a movie with a loved one and those laughs can become even better.

The internet is also home to many websites containing jokes, funny stories and hilarious video clips. No matter how you're feeling, you should attempt to laugh each and every day.